Massive investigation in Italy combating online child sexual abuse

08 July 2020
Press Release
Press Release/News

This News/Press release is about Child Sexual Exploitation

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Communications took place through a popular instant messaging application, and they were referred to the police once they were detected by the service owners.

A successful investigation to tackle online child abuse conducted by the Italian State Police (Polizia di Stato) of Turin and supported by Europol, has led to 50 investigations and several searches across the country. Working from referrals through Europol by the Canadian National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (NCECC), investigators targeted suspects producing, exchanging and possessing child sexual abuse material.

200 investigators involved across Italy

Europol handles the receipt, processing and onward distribution of these intelligence reports from Canada to all of the EU Member States.  In this case, the data was sent by Europol in mid-January 2019.  The Turin Prosecutor’s Office directed the “Operation 50 Community” investigation which was coordinated by the Italian Postal and Communications Police National Centre for Countering Child Abuse Online (CNCPO) and involved 200 investigators across Italy.  

The searches reported by the police led to the arrest of 3 individuals, alongside the seizure of thousands of files. During the course of the investigation, the officers discovered that one of the suspects identified had been previously arrested for sexual abuse of children.  Other discoveries included images and videos of sexual violence in which the victims were mainly babies, abuse material involving animals, references to 6 year old children and suspects using abbreviations for pre-teen child abuse. 

The Turin Prosecutor’s Office stated that the investigation was long and complex involving the tracing of the nicknames used by the suspects online and finding the suspects behind their activities.  A combination of open source investigation and technical analysis was used during the process. 

The Acting Head of Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), Fernando Ruiz, said: 

Europol’s role in providing a secure means of channelling these reports from Canada to the EU Member States’ police is essential to making sure this valuable intelligence can be investigated and acted on.  This operation co-ordinated by our Italian colleagues and directed by the Turin Prosecutor’s Office shows the importance of having a swift international cooperation and dedicated resources to make children safer.